Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor: Sept. 26, 2007

Religious organizations still lobby

In an opinion piece published in The Mirror on Sept. 22, Bruce Barton statement that “Ever since the Johnson administration, it’s been illegal for a church to speak out on any political issue or face the threat of losing its tax-exempt status” is inaccurate.

Religious organizations such as churches are free to speak out on any political issue without risking their tax-exempt status, and regularly do. For example, as a minister, I regularly speak out on issues such as marriage equality, the necessity of campaign finance reform and the folly of the war in Iraq.

Indeed, according to the Internal Revenue Service Publication 1828, religious organizations can even attempt to directly influence legislation through political lobbying without risking their tax-exempt status as long as such efforts do not constitute a “substantial part” of the organization’s activities. Federal courts have interpreted that phrase to mean that a religious organization can use up to 5 percent of its time and resources for political lobbying.

For example, as a minister I have lobbied the King County Council to increase funding for human services, which, sadly, are still woefully under-funded in King County. It would also likely be permissible for a religious organization to publicly support or oppose any ballot initiative, even, say, by taking out a full-page ad in The Mirror.

Religious organizations are explicitly prohibited from participating in political campaigns for public office without risking their tax-exempt status. For example, as a minister, it would be inappropriate for me to endorse a candidate from the pulpit, and I have never done so.

Despite Mr. Barton’s assertion, there are still many opportunities for people of faith to give voice to their values in the public square.

Rev. Dr. James Kubal-Komoto,

Federal Way resident and minister of the Saltwater Unitarian Universalist Church in Des Moines

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